If you’re like most people, you have goals for your financial future—and no doubt have come across a few “money rules” along the way. But do these rules help or hinder your efforts to meet those goals?
If so, which ones should you follow?
To answer these questions, I’ve assembled what I believe are the top 10 money rules that will help anyone achieve financial success.
These tips are simple, straightforward, and easy to implement.
Always live below income.
Live below your means. This is the most important rule for financial success. If you don’t live below your income, you will be in debt, and that debt will keep weighing you down like an anchor tied to your leg.
Don’t use credit cards unless necessary for making a purchase or paying off an emergency situation (such as car repairs). Use cash whenever possible—when buying groceries or clothing, for example—and only use your credit card if it’s absolutely necessary to pay off later with money from another source (like a job).
You also want to avoid buying things you don’t need.
This is another way of saying: Don’t go into debt just because something seems cool or fun! There are many things that depreciate in value over time; avoid buying them at any cost if possible (e.g., cars).
Track all of your spending.
Tracking your spending is an important part of creating a budget. Once you track your spending, you’ll be able to see where all of your money goes and make better financial decisions based on that information.
- Use an app or software program to help keep track of your spending. You can also just use pen and paper if that’s more convenient for you! Whichever method works best for you, it’s important that whatever method(s) used are easy enough so that tracking isn’t too much work for the user.
- Record every single dollar spent throughout the day in one place (even if it’s not a traditional budget). This will allow users to easily find their total expenses at any time during the month without having to piece together several different sources of information about what was bought when — which may include receipts from retailers as well as ATM withdrawals made at banks other than where they hold their checking accounts (and vice versa).
Pay your bills on time.
Paying your bills on time is a financial must. If you don’t, it can cost you more in the long run. Here’s why:
- Late payments will affect your credit score and could cost you higher interest rates on future loans.
- The late fees will add up over time, eating away at your finances.
- If the company that services your loan or payment attempts to collect late fees, they could take legal action against you—and possibly even garnish wages from another job if they’re successful.
Create a budget and stick to it.
Creating a budget is the first step in being able to plan your spending, save money and achieve financial success.
To create a budget, you need to know your income and expenses. You may also want to consider whether or not you are going to have any sources of additional income (e.g., side hustle). Once you know how much money is coming in and going out each month, it’s time to figure out what should stay the same and what will change over time. Both categories are equally important because they help guide your financial decisions in the future as well as make sure that everything runs smoothly now!
Save for retirement, starting now.
One of the most important things you can do is to start saving for retirement as early as possible.
In general, the earlier you begin investing, and the more money you invest each month, the more money your investments will grow over time.
There’s no single right answer for how much to save each month; that depends on your goals and other factors such as your income and savings rate now. But we recommend saving at least 10% of your income every year.
Any less than that won’t give you enough money to retire comfortably. If you have access to a 401(k) account at work or an IRA (Individual Retirement Account), then invest all contributions in low-cost index funds rather than actively managed mutual funds or stocks that might lose value over time due to fees and poor performance.
Pay down debt, starting now.
The benefits of paying off debt are many: it can help you sleep better at night, and it can even save you money.
If you have credit card debt, for example, not only will you pay less interest per month if you pay down the principal balance faster; but if a creditor raises your interest rate due to late payments (or any other reason), that new higher rate will take effect only after your current introductory period ends—meaning that by paying off your balance early, before the higher rate kicks in!
Follow the one-third rule.
The one-third rule is a good way to ensure you are not spending too much on any one thing. One-third is the maximum amount of your take-home pay that you should spend each month. For example, if your monthly income is $5,000, then no more than $1,500 should be spent on housing (including rent or mortgage, utilities and maintenance). No more than $600 should be spent on food—including groceries and dining out.
There’s no need to go overboard with this rule; it just helps keep your spending in check so that it doesn’t spiral out of control.
Be smart about borrowing from your 401(k).
You should only borrow what you need and be sure to pay it back as soon as possible.
If the loan is for a specific purpose, like buying a house or paying for college, set up an automatic repayment plan so that it’s paid off in two or three years at most. Make sure that you’re eligible to borrow: Most plans limit how much of your own money—your “elective deferrals”—you can take out before they charge fees and penalties on top of them. Ask the plan administrator what those limits are before making any loans so that you don’t run afoul of them later on. Understand all of the terms of the loan:
The lender may charge interest on all or just part of your balance, and there may be penalties if you fail to pay as agreed (for example, if you stop working for an employer who sponsors its own plan). You’ll also want to make sure that this additional debt doesn’t put undue strain on your budget; otherwise, repaying these loans could lead not only toward financial ruin but also burnout from stress overload!
Build an emergency fund with six to nine months’ worth of living expenses.
Whether you’re planning to pay for a wedding, save for retirement or graduate school or make another big purchase, it’s important to build an emergency fund with six to nine months’ worth of living expenses.
When you’re young and have little debt, it can be difficult to put away large sums of money. Think about cutting back on expenses—like eating out less often—and putting more money into your savings account each month. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand, there are plenty of tools that can help:
- Automated savings plans are easy ways to save without thinking about it every day (or even once a year). Some banks offer these services for free; others require a monthly fee but offer higher interest rates than traditional online banks with no-fee accounts do. You can also set up automatic transfers from your checking account into a high-yield savings account if you want more control over how often money goes into savings versus other places like retirement accounts or college funds; use an app like Mint (available on Android) or Personal Capital (available on both platforms)
Be sure you know who owns what in a partnership before establishing a business.
A partnership is a business owned by two or more people. Partners are equally liable for the debts of the business, which means that if it fails, they each lose everything they invested in it. Before you start a partnership, make sure you know who owns what and how to establish one. If some disagreements arise between partners, here are some tips for dealing with them:
- Negotiate until you both agree on something reasonable
- Have an attorney negotiate for you, if necessary
- Have a mediator help resolve disputes (this may be required by law)
Financial success is within reach for everyone if they follow these money rules
Financial success is within reach for everyone if they follow these money rules. It’s not just about money, but also your overall financial health. You shouldn’t be worried about what you don’t have or can’t do because that’s not helpful in finding happiness. Instead, focus on the things that are working well and build on them with even better ideas.
It’s important to have a plan for your finances so you can invest wisely and get the most value from your money through smart spending decisions and managing debt.
It’s important to remember that financial success is within reach for everyone, but it takes careful planning and discipline. If you follow these ten money rules, you will find yourself well on your way towards reaching the financial goals that matter most to you.